Roche Harbor by Jack Riley
Roche Harbor Resort by Jack Riley
Photo by Jack Riley

You don’t have to be a boat lover to enjoy this boater’s paradise. Roche Harbor’s richly preserved history offers nineteenth-century clapboard buildings, old gardens, and incredible sunsets – all perfect for relaxing. Enjoy local seafood, some of the best doughnuts in the Pacific Northwest, and views of the surrounding mountains. 

Whether you arrive by boat or seaplane, be sure to keep an eye out for pods of local orcas. They can frequently be seen playing in the waters surrounding the San Juan Islands, especially during the summer months.

Regularly scheduled seaplane flights to Roche Harbor are available from Lake Washington, Point Ruston in Tacoma, and Lake Union. Direct wheeled plane flights also depart daily from Boeing Field to Friday Harbor Airport

Friday at Roche Harbor

7:00 PM – Dinner at Madrona Bar and Grill

Stroll in for a laid back meal at the where the seafood is fresh and the drinks are flavorful. Among the menu favorites is the kettle-fried calamari tossed in a curry vinaigrette and crispy rockfish and crab artichoke dip club. 

Saturday at Roche Harbor

9:00 AM – Breakfast at the Lime Kiln Café

Doughnuts at the might just be the best in the Pacific Northwest. These cake-like babies are made fresh daily in a variety of flavors including: cinnamon sugar, chocolate frosting and maple glaze. Beyond the sugar-fried goodness, the cafe dishes up heartier diner-style mains ranging from sweet to savory — including three varieties of breakfast hash. Weather permitting, snag a seat on the deck to enjoy the marina view at its finest. 

10:30 AM – Stroll Through San Juan Island Sculpture Park

Sheep mural at San Juan Island Sculpture Park. Photo by Mikaela Judd
Photo by Mikaela Judd
Art at San Juan Island Sculpture Park
Photo by Jack Riley

The 20-acre is located just outside the entrance to Roche Harbor Resort. This free (though donations are strongly encouraged) open-air gallery features more than 150 art installations from roughly 90 artists at any given time. Some pieces are permanent, while others are temporary (either on loan or for sale). 

The topography is relatively mild, making it ideal for a gentle stroll or afternoon picnic. And throughout the five different walking paths, the art on display leans towards whimsical. featuring five different walking paths.The art on display leans towards whimsical — such as a large bronze frog by Frog Pond named ‘’ and a hand forged prawn by Zackarya Leck.

Like your art a with bit of interaction? Don’t miss the Friendship Totem, where visitors are invited to carve their name into the roughly 25-foot poll using an electric engraver. The Starfish Sandlot is also open to those who want to make their own (temporary) sculpture. 

12:30 PM – Savor Fresh Oysters at Westcott Bay Shellfish

This highly acclaimed saltwater farm is known for its sweet, buttery oysters and epic views. They offer — The Tide Tables (reservations recommended) and The Net Shed Market (seating is first-come first-served). There’s no wrong answer here, though if you want to play an active role in your lunch and shuck some oysters, The Net Shed’s your best bet. Oysters can be dressed up with specialty butters and paired with local cider, wine, and beer. 

2:00 PM – Get Out On the Water

Kayaking in the San Juan Islands. Photo by Sara Satterlee
Photo by Sara Satterlee

Take to the sea in a kayak made for two (or three). Explore the calm waters of the harbor and the expansive views of Haro Straight, the Olympic Mountains, Cascade Mountains, and beautiful shoreline. Keep an eye out for fins. Haro Straight is known as the “Orca Highway.” You just might encounter one of the San Juan Islands’ resident pods.

Sunset – Watch the Colors Ceremony

colors ceremony. Photo by Jack Riley
Photo by Jack Riley
Roche Harbor Cannon Fire. Photo by Jack Riley
Photo by Jack Riley

This is considered a must for the full Roche Harbor experience. Wander down to the docks in the early evening for the Colors Ceremony. From early May through late September, 10 minutes before sunset, each of Roche Harbor’s flags is lowered to their given anthem. In the grand finale, the American flag is lowered to the sound of a solo trumpet playing taps. Following the Colors Ceremony, American flag comes down a cannon shot booms through the harbor.

7:30 PM – Dinner at ѳѾ’s Dining Room

Burger at McMillins Dining Room. Photo by Jack Riley.
Photo by Jack Riley
Crispy calamari at McMillins Dining Room. Photo by Jack Riley.
Photo by Jack Riley

Think island formal. Think two to three hours of indulging in savory and sweet bites. Think waterside views, exceptional service, and celebration. That’s what you’ll find at . They are best known for their prime rib. This is a 40-day-aged, dry rub, slow roasted, sliced to order affair. But don’t overlook the pub-style burger worthy of a steakhouse or spicy calamari perfect for sharing. Enjoy a drink (or maybe two) and watch the last of the sun slip below the water as you dine in elegance.

Sunday at Roche Harbor

8:00 AM – Breakfast at Beechtree

Visit and sip like you’re at home. Serving Starbucks coffee, this small coffee stand offers all the regular lattes, mochas, and espresso shots you want. A selection of light breakfast options are also available ranging from yogurt and granola to pastries and fruit. During the afternoon, this café transforms into an ice cream shop, dishing up cold treats perfect for warm days.

9:00 AM – Explore the Grounds & Savor the History

Afterglow Vista. Photo by Jack Riley
Photo by Jack Riley
Hotel de Haro. Photo by Jack Riley
Photo by Jack Riley

Roche Harbor’s rich history is preserved throughout the resort’s sprawling estate. Take a look at the cobblestone walkways throughout. They’re actually limestones, likely fired in the very kilns located just north of Quarryman Hall. 

Meander into the Hotel de Haro. While the 19-room clapboard building may seem old (it was built in 1886), it’s in fact an upgrade. The elegantly appointed rooms and sweeping balconies were built around a log cabin originally constructed by the Hudson Bay Company in 1845. Part of the original log cabin can be seen in the Hotel de Haro lobby. This is also a good place to grab a , if you don’t already have one. 

Undoubtedly one of the most interesting historic sights at Roche Harbor is Afterglow Vista. A massive mausoleum nestled in the hillside above Roche Harbor, it is the final resting place of the McMillin family, the founders of the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company. It can be reached on a gentle half-mile loop and rewards explorers with a picture-worthy sense of eerie elegance. 

More Fun Things To Do On San Juan Island

40 Things To Do On San Juan Island This Summer

Summer on San Juan Island
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Friday Harbor House Weekend Getaway

friday harbor house roasting marshmellows
Perched one block above the Friday Harbor Marina, Friday Harbor House is ideally positioned for the ultimate weekend getaway.